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Simple vs. Piece of Cake

 

 

piece of cake

 

‘Simple’ by definition

I was having a glass of wine with my friend, Carolyn, the other night, and we were discussing each other’s work. I said that I’m enjoying creating simple websites. Being an animated person, Carolyn’s face was nothing short of hearing fingernails on a chalk board. ‘Not simple‘, she said. And she immediately looked up the word in her thesaurus app. ‘Clean, uncomplicated, piece of cake’, were several of the more appealing suggestions. Her point: simple can also mean ‘unstudied, vanilla, bare…’, hardly words I would want used to describe my projects!

good ‘Simple’

Just the other day, our college-age daughter needed some money in her account to cover her rent. Usually, I would grumble and drive to her bank and deposit cash. Now, my bank allows me to “send” money to her phone. She receives a text and follows the instructions to direct this electronic deposit into her checking account. This is ‘good simple’.

Email and cloud-based computing mean it isn’t always necessary to send a physical package. It used to be you’d have to set up a meeting with the client every time you wanted to show them something. Now you can create a pdf and send it in an email. Or you share a link to the cloud. I always try to get face-to-face with my clients to nurture the relationship, or to help a project along, but it is wonderful when you can get some quick feedback on an edit. (Clients like it, too.)

All of it this is great. But I’m afraid, from a creative standpoint, expecting things quickly is getting in the way of doing things right.

What people think they need isn’t always what they really need.

I’ve had a few companies say, ‘all we need is a simple website’. What they mean is they need a clean, uncomplicated website, and even with these clean, uncomplicated sites, we also need to brainstorm all the possible functions early, before we start building.

Taking time to step way back and think through a project is important:
– what inspired this project?
– what do you need it to do?
– who will make updates, contribute content?

Take the time to do things right.

Computers have made many parts of our work faster, but the heart and soul of any project depends on investing time early to think things through. Piece of cake, right? All kidding aside, we could all benefit from just slowing things down and doing them right.

My New Love

 

 

WordPress

I love to talk about WordPress because the moment I started learning it I fell in love with it. It was what I had been looking for. My print design days were filled with interesting exploration of color, type, photography, illustration and paper. But I started to realize I was missing out.

Print designer.

I’ve been a print designer since 1987. My first job was for a sweet boutique ad agency in Marion, OH. I made employee number five. In my first week, I designed a logo, created a map for a brochure and typed up proposals. Fast forward to the late 2000’s…

Missing out.

It’s probably 2007 or 2008. I’ve been designing logos, stationery, brochures and just about anything that can be printed since 1987. I’m missing something. Prospective clients call. They need a logo…and a website. ‘I can design your logo. We’ll have to find someone else to do the website’. And…cut. Most small businesses and start ups I talked to wanted to work with one person on their logo and website.

Probably about the same time, I explore WordPress. I see potential but it’s confusing and I’d never consider doing a client website using WordPress. I create a Tumblr blog instead. I read a book a week for a year and talk about it on my blog.

WordPress all grown up.

I start hearing more about WordPress. I look into it. I take an online class. And then another one. It’s better now! WordPress is all grown up! I create my own business site using it. I create sites for my Rotary and Synergist groups.

And I attend my first WordCamp, a three-day $40 (yes, $40) conference with WordPress royalty for presenters. Even breakfast and lunch are covered. I learn so much in one workshop on the first day I admit I would have paid a few hundred dollars for that experience alone. Sticky notes and Sharpie pens are all you need to develop site architecture. It’s so easy. I can see my clients dig it. Every thought gets a sticky note. I rearrange them as people around the table shout out new ideas for pages, posts, categories and calls-to-action. I will never forget that workshop.

Back to what I love.

I create a few sites for paying clients. The ones that work out best are companies with an Information Technology (IT) person on staff. I create the site. They add content and maintain it. I get to worry about the stuff I enjoy: color, type, photography, illustration. My client gets to do press release updates and minor tweaks. You might say I’m missing out on repeat business but what I hope is that they’ll tell their contacts about their experience with me, and I’ll get to keep doing what I love: designing.

 

WordCamp and Kandinsky

 

 

My friend, Mary Kay, and I went to Milwaukee this past weekend for WordCamp. We did blow off the first couple sessions to see Kansinsky’s exhibit at the Milwaukee Art Museum. I think all we missed at the conference was stuff we already knew, so we were giddy to sneak in some culture.

This was my first WordCamp, and with a price tag of only $40, I was skeptical about what I’d get out of it. I was blown away. After one day I could have left and it would have been worth every penny. The majority of speakers were very good: knowledgeable, nice presentations, eager to help. Sessions were kept to 45 minutes, allowing time in between to grab a beverage/snack, and decide what to hit next. It also helped to chat with folks at lunch — people really tried to guide us.

I’ve been struggling with whether or not to enter the world of developing; WordPress makes it so easy to do, and it’s easy for clients to take over maintenance of their sites. I believe there is a perfect client for me out there: they value good design, they embrace the WordPress phenomenon, and they’ll take the reins once it’s designed and built. After attending WordCamp, I’m confident I’ve made a good decision. There was a time when all I could offer a client was the print side of things. I’m sure I lost business because of it. Learning WordPress has already opened up some doors for me. People can get print AND web with me. And I’m excited to work those people.